U.S.-backed forces storm IS-held vil­lage in east Syria

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WORLD -

BEIRUT — U.S.-backed Syr­ian forces en­tered an east­ern vil­lage held by the Is­lamic State group where in­tense clashes were on­go­ing Satur­day, a day af­ter the ex­trem­ists re­port­edly killed 20 fight­ers, the forces and a war mon­i­tor said.

The Kur­dish-led Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces said its fight­ers stormed Bagouz and were close to the cen­ter of the vil­lage. The forces added that they planned to open another front in the Sousseh area along the Euphrates river to in­crease pres­sure on the ex­trem­ists.

SDF launched with the help of the U.S.-led coali­tion a wide of­fen­sive last week to cap­ture the last pocket held by IS in Syria. The Kur­dish-led forces have been among the most ef­fec­tive in the fight against IS in Syria, forc­ing them out of much of the coun­try’s east.

De­spite los­ing most of the ter­ri­tory it held be­tween Iraq and Syria since its peak in 2014, the ji­hadist IS re­mains a dis­rup­tive force. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi, urged his fol­low­ers to “per­se­vere” in an au­dio tape at­trib­uted to him last month.

The IS-linked Aa­maq news agency said the group’s gun­men tar­geted ad­vanc­ing SDF fight­ers in the Bagouz area with mor­tar rounds, road­side bombs and sniper fire in­flict­ing many ca­su­al­ties among them.

The SDF com­man­der of the op­er­a­tion in Bagouz, who iden­ti­fied him­self as Shergo, said in a video state­ment the fight­ing is in­tense from both sides and that his fight­ers now con­trol al­most half the vil­lage.

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